FTPP k-12 outreach

The NSF EPSCoR FTPP (Future Technologies and enabling Plasma Processes) aims to spread STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) awareness to children and teens in the state of Alabama.

Wondering what plasma is?

Plasma is the fourth state of matter. When gas is heated at a very high temperature (thousands of degrees!), some of the electrons leave the atoms of the gas. This is what causes plasma to be formed.


What are some examples of plasma?

How does a plasma ball work?

A plasma ball, also known as a plasma globe or plasma lamp, is a device that generates a plasma discharge within a glass sphere. The sphere is typically filled with a mixture of gases, such as neon and argon, at a low pressure. An electrical current is passed through the gas, causing it to ionize and create a plasma, which is a state of matter similar to gas in which a significant portion of the particles are ionized.

The plasma within the sphere is then ignited by a high-voltage electrode, typically located at the center of the sphere. This creates a visible light that is emitted by the excited ions and electrons in the plasma, which can take the form of colored plasma filaments or arcs. The plasma filaments will move towards the place you touch the glass due to the electrostatic attraction between your finger (ground) and the high-voltage electrode.

The color of the light emitted by the plasma depends on the gases used and the amount of current passing through the gas. Neon gas produces a reddish-orange color, while argon gas produces a blue-violet color. Some Plasma balls may contain other gases like xenon, krypton, and helium that can produce different colors.

Plasma balls are used for decoration and can be a fun and interactive way to learn about the properties of plasma and the behavior of electrical discharge in gases.

Click the power button on the plasma ball to see it in action!